A Conversation With: Herb Lawrence

 


Way back in 2015, I was a marketing and promotions intern for 670 The Score. That turned into a part-time social media role, where I was tasked to run the infancy of their Instagram account. Now I work in outside sales for a safety clothing manufacturer, so that internship didn’t parlay into a grand career in social media marketing. That being said, having been a pretty avid Score listener through my youth, the internship allowed me to have a few interactions with the hosts and producers I grew up listening to. Just about all the host and producer interactions I had were pleasant, but the majority of people didn’t go out of their way to interact with the interns other than a hallway head nod.

 (One time, Dan Bernstein walked into the room the interns worked out of, and silently admired the moon for about five minutes before walking out, I don’t know why, but I’ll never forget that.)

Herb Lawrence was one of those rare few who interacted with us. I’ve always appreciated anyone who goes out of their way to be friendly and helpful to people who can’t help them with anything. While I didn’t see him all that often, Herb was always engaging and kind with everyone at the station.

He’s also simply one of the best sports personalities we have in this city. While I don’t agree with his every take, the one thing you know you’re getting with Herb is no bullshit. He doesn’t pander, and he speaks the truth even if it goes against the grain. Actually, especially if it goes against the grain.

You know him and love his as the executive producer of the Laurence Holmes Show, and now co-host of the fantastic Locked on White Sox Podcast alongside fellow Score producer Chris Tannehill. Ladies and gentlemen, my conversation with the incomparable Herb Lawrence.


(Note: This interview was conducted prior to COVID-19 sports-related cancellations and postponements.)

SS: How confident are you on a scale of 1-10 about the 2020 season, with Opening Day right around the corner?

HERB LAWRENCE: I’m pretty sure the White Sox will compete all season long and it will be much more thrilling than infuriating. Not picking them for the division, but I don’t think that the Indians or the Twins are that much better.

Something I’ve always respected about your White Sox opinions, and to a larger extent, all of your sports opinions, is that you call it like you see it more than almost anyone I know. You give credit when and where credit is due, but you’ll call out bullshit like no other. With that in mind, how can we fairly judge the job done by a front office that has both made fools of themselves and done a few good things recently? I guess that’s a long way of asking: Can we trust this front office? 

First, Thanks for the compliment. Second, they did a fantastic job this offseason, as I didn’t think they would field a competent team much less a team that’s ready to compete. They’ve learned their lesson from past failures and have grown. I trust them now.

This has seemingly been the fan narrative since the start of, and even before the rebuild, but why do you think it is that “good” moves seem to be attributed to Rick Hahn, while the “bad” ones seem to be pinned on Kenny Williams, and can you ever see this changing?

The media and fans have set it up as such, and it’s not right. Kenny isn’t as smooth as Rick when it comes to dealing with the media and fans, so he takes the lion’s share of blame because they just don’t like him. Rick is more personable, so he gets a pass despite not producing a winning season at all in his GM tenure. They don’t seem to have a problem with it publicly [so] it won’t change. 

Earliest White Sox memory? 

Robin Ventura hitting the walk-off grand slam [against Texas on July 31, 1991] and Frank Thomas picking him up over his shoulder. Get chills just thinking about it now.

I don’t know why, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more angry about a White Sox game than when Jim Thome hit a walk-off home run against Matt Thornton in 2010. This was a regular season game, that if I recall, had no real implications other than an August loss, but it has always stuck out for me. What is your “Jim Thome walks off the Sox in August irrational anger moment,” if you have one?

Not specifically, but every single time I saw Ricky Renteria bat A.J. Reed fourth in the lineup in 2019. Just looked it up, he did it four times and the last one was on August 1 and he was sent to the minors later that day. Cleanup hitter to off the team makes zero sense. 

Will White Sox fans ever stop caring about the Cubs? Years ago, I tweeted out something like “Sox win, Cubs lose, great day” and you and Tim Baffoe justifiably called me out for it. I’m older and wiser now, but it seems like lots of Sox fans can’t stop thinking about the Cubs. 

It’s part of some fans’ experience and I never really got into it. Doesn’t make me a better fan, but I just think rooting against them and cheering for the Indians in the World Series was some of the weirdest stuff that I saw. I get that we don’t get the love that the Cubs do, but that’s not the team’s fault and certainly not the Cubs fans’, either. Hating on them when we play makes sense, or if they ever wise up and put them in the same division, but until them cheering for the Cubs to lose is a tough look.

Best thing about White Sox fans? 

Die-hard. This franchise has giving us fans plenty of reasons to abandon them, and yet we are still here. The Yankees and Sox have played the exact amount of years and the Yankees have nine times the championships. We have only seen five playoff appearances (1983, 1993, 2000, 2005, 2008) in our lifetimes (if you’ve seen six, god bless) and we are still here believing that times will get better for the team we love. There’s no more loyal fan base in the history of the league.

Worst thing about White Sox fans? 

Our inferiority complex. We need to not feel like we are beneath any fan base just because our favorite team hasn’t performed as well as it should. Being a fan of a bad franchise is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter.

Do you believe in the idea that this season can still be considered a success through player development and a higher win total even if the Sox miss out on the playoffs? 

Indeed. I don’t expect them to win the Central but know that they’ll be right there at the end. It’s because the development of these young players that I feel confident about the team’s record. 

What album or song have you been listening to the most lately? 

“Waves” by JSMN, it’s just a stone cold jam that Salif Crookboys was dancing to last year I’m on IG and I haven’t stopped listening since.

What’s an album you don’t think I’ve ever heard, but I should check out ASAP? 

The Foreign Exchange, Love in Flying Colors. Great album by them, as they put it all together and is my favorite from them.

Most overrated movie of all time? 

Scarface. I don’t even think that movie is particularly good. Watched it once and didn’t get why everyone was so over the moon about it.

Most underrated T.V. show of all time? 

Sons of Anarchy. It doesn’t get the love that its contemporary shows like Breaking Bad, The Wire or Mad Men get, but it is right up there with them.

You’re going on a weekend trip to anywhere in the world, where are you going, and who are you taking? Pick 5, living or dead/current or former, from these categories:

Place San Diego (of course)

670 the Score employee Chris Tannehill

White Sox player José Valentín

Actor or Actress Nia Long

Musician Jamiroquai

Illini athlete Kevin Turner

What’s your favorite restaurant in Chicago?

Pequods. The food is always on point, and it’s always worth the wait.

What’s something that most people get wrong about Chicago? 

That it is dangerous. Love this city, and yeah, there might be pockets of violence, but we’re not here just shooting at each other. Media’s fear of young black males plays into this, as if you look up the homicide/shootings for big cities it isn’t close to the top. 

How far is Illinois getting in the tournament this year? 

The early-season losses to Miami and Mizzery give me pause to pick them for a long run but also this tourney is wide open so I’m gonna say win the first game and lose a close game to a higher-ranked team in the second round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SSHP Podcast 19: Yoán Moncada extension

(Tom Borowski/South Side Hit Pen)


SSHP managing editor and Future Sox senior editor James Fox hops on to talk with Brett Ballantini about his latest scoop, breaking the Yoán Moncada contract extension. The two also talk about future White Sox contract extensions, the 2020 starting rotation and the battle for the 26th man on the roster.

You may have heard: We’re on Apple Podcasts!

So, you’ve decided to become a White Sox fan …

Welcome, friend: Sitaspell. Take your shoes off. Let’s learn how to root for the White Sox … together.


Congratulations on taking the first step towards what might be a long and arduous journey through our humble fandom! Or maybe you’ll only be with us for a short time. Hey, this guide isn’t here to judge.

That’s your decision; this is, after all, at-will employment. 

Allow me to introduce myself; I’m a hereditary White Sox fan, and if you’ve seen that movie, having the fan run through your family can certainly feel like you’ve inherited something sinister. Due to budget cuts, I am both the resident IT person and HR generalist of the White Sox fandom. I’ll email you a link with your email and password, and make sure it’s a secure one, (nothing obvious like IL0v3Y@sm@niGr@nd@l!), but we’ll figure all that out at the end of this orientation. 

Whatever length your tenure figures to be with our beloved South Siders, this guide is here to serve as your New Fan Orientation packet, and to let you know what exactly you are getting yourself into.

So sit back, relax, and strap it down. And on behalf of everyone at South Side Hit Pen, home of innovative crowdfunded grassroots coverage of your new favorite team, welcome to the madness that is White Sox baseball!


Why are you here?

Let’s get this one out of the way: Let the homers call you a bandwagoner in the pejorative. Fandom is a choice, it’s not something that’s earned. Even if you’re like me, where your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, third cousin once removed or whatever, cheered for one team, truthfully, you’re still free to cheer for another. 

Casual, intermediate, advanced. We welcome all levels of fan. You can name only one or two players? Have the birth charts of the whole pitching staff saved on your phone? (By the way, oddly enough, stacked with Capricorns.) Got Baseball-Reference bookmarked so you can fire off stats on some plebeian who thinks Yasmani Grandal can’t be a leadoff hitter because his batting average was .170 batting first? 

The only gatekeeping at Sox Park you’ll see is performed by the security guard who wouldn’t let me in with a sealed bottle of vitamin water a few years back.

Maybe you’re here because your favorite player was acquired in a gustatory offseason free agent signing.

(We see you, Brewers fans.) 

Or perhaps you found yourself telling your friends and family that while you and your team love each other very much, that you’re taking a much-needed break and have decided to see other teams.

We see you … Astros fans? (Hey, again, no judgments here.) 

Or you maybe you are a recovering Cubs fan, upset at how the R*cketts family is spending their money, namely, not on players. We see you, too.

Let’s not forget those who are new to baseball altogether; perhaps you are finally buying into the hype via your friends, who won’t shut up about 108-ing, legend statue selfies, five-inning complete game shutouts, bat flips, or some guy who just seems to like to say hi to his own mom. 

You are seen. 

No one else can tell you how to fan but you, and we embrace that philosophy here on the South Side.

It all boils down to this: you cheer for the White Sox? We do, too. We have so much in common already!


The basics: Who’s Who

Screenshot 2020-02-21 at 9.53.00 PM

Rick Hahn

Our fearless GM, who makes calls and starts moves, namely as soon as he’s able to, the day after the World Series. Rick was first out of the gates and acquired the likes of Yasmani Grandal when other GMs were sleeping off their hangovers, and gifted Dallas Keuchel and Edwin Encarnación to the fandom right before December 25. 

Ricky Renteria 

The man making the lineups. Though he was the subject of scrutiny for being very experimental with the batting order last season, Ricky’s approval rating is high — especially now that he should have plenty of offensive flexibility with this offseason’s acquisitions. (We acquired a switch-hitting catcher who draws walks? Incredible!) Not to mention through testimonial, Ricky’s personable, positive, and respected by his players — a proven leader. 

Jason Benetti and Steve Stone 

We’re blessed by the baseball gods to have this dynamic announcing duo — Benetti, especially, is a gift with his wry insight and humor. Also, #SoxMath anyone? Steve Stone is the perfect comedic foil to Benetti, especially if you follow either of them on Twitter.

Southpaw

The fuzzy green dude is the working class hero we’ve been needing. Whether he’s at your wedding, corporate event, or goofing off with your kids at a game, Southpaw’s always down to entertain. But … why isn’t he left-handed?

Some other good names to know

Nick Madrigal, our hopeful second baseman on Opening Day.
Michael Kopech, a top prospect who just shaved his head for charity.
Luis Robert, a center fielder whom you’ve probably seen hit some sort of ridiculous home run video on social media.

These guys are the future of the organization, and we’re so excited to see them in 2020. 


The basics: What’s What

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The 2005 World Series 

Yeah, it happened. 

So much magic. Scott Podsednik with the walk-off homer — his second postseason homer —  in Game 2, despite hitting no home runs during the 2005 season. Small ball, long ball, the 2005 White Sox did it all. A powerful lineup that hit 200 home runs in the regular season. A ridiculous starting rotation including Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland and Freddy García. Heck, the pitching staff’s entire ERA was 2.63. 

The legacy of 2005 is still felt to this day. Manager Ozzie Guillén continues to offer, um, insight from time to time. Every White Sox dad has that one jacket with the cream leather sleeves, the ’05 World Series patch on the sleeve. Any given bar on the South Side has that one neon World Series Champs Miller Lite sign, and chances are it’s rarely been turned off since.

108ing

What exactly is 108ing? Chances are, you’ve done it already. Not limited to the confines of the scenic view of the right field foul pole, any given time is probably an appropriate time for a beverage. On your way to a court appearance for a parking ticket? (Probably not then, honestly. HR is not responsible for any 108-related citations.) Waiting for medical test results? Generally thinking about the insurmountable weight of human existence? Time to 108. 

Tailgating

Sox Park is surrounded by vast parking lots, ideal for the ancient tradition of consuming self-prepared food and assorted beverages out the backside of your vehicle. 

STICK TALK!

Tim Anderson is changing the game, namely by unapologetically being himself and not giving a rat’s ass about whose feathers are ruffled by his incredulous bat flips. Timmy’s about having fun playing baseball, not this AcT liKe YoU’ve BeEn tHeRe bEfoRe crap. We love him so much that we built a whole-ass marketing campaign around the reigning AL batting champ.

Food

Sox Park (anyone calling it Guaranteed Rate Field is doing that because they have some legal obligation to) is home to some of the best ballpark food you’ll find. Anyway: fries topped with gyro fixins or buffalo chicken, helmet nachos, elotes, churros, an entire goddamn BBQ loaded baked potato. We’ve got it all. Come hungry; you will eat well at the ballpark.

Admit it: you’d buy this candle

A final note

With spring training just getting underway, there’s so much excitement in the fandom that hasn’t been seen in years. PECOTA? We don’t know her. The White Sox are projected to win 80-something games, but from the early player interviews, it sounds like winning is, well, a priority; the rebuild is complete.

However you choose to ride with us, you’ve made the decision to do so, since the other option was to, well, get run over. 

At any other orientation, an HR person would have you fill out a few forms, present a form of identification, maybe a check to jump-start your direct deposit, so you’d get paid.

As a White Sox fan, remember, you will pay. We’re not sure how yet, but you’ll certainly pay. 

Hitter’s Camp: Day 2, plus Ricky

Moving up together: Frank Menechino tutors ex-Knights pupil Nick Madrigal, who should soon join the hitting coach in Chicago. (Chicago White Sox)


Tuesday was Day 2 of Hitters’ Camp down in Glendale, and the White Sox were kind enough to provide more footage of the proceedings. 

First, a one-on-one with manager Ricky Renteria, who can hardly conceal his excitement over his club turning the corner. Come for the giddiness, stay for the “Gardy.”

 

 

 

 

 

And of course, we have some batting cage footage, including Andrew Vaughn, Nick Madrigal, Frank Menechino, Rick Hahn, Ricky Renteria and Blake Rutherford.

Friday’s arbitration deadline makes a busy week busier for the White Sox

Big payday awaits: Closer Colomé is the sole significant salary expenditure expected through the arbitration process. (@AlexanderColome)


The White Sox continue to add talent this offseason, and right-handed reliever Steve Cishek is the latest addition to the squad. The signing isn’t yet official but in short order, the organization’s expenditures over the course of this offseason will surpass $200 million in total outlay. With a reported agreement for designated hitter Edwin Encarnación also on the precipice of becoming official, it could be a busy week of roster juggling for the franchise.

Friday is the deadline for clubs to reach agreement with arbitration-eligible players. Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox has been involved in trade discussions in advance of his penultimate year of arbitration, and he’s expected to set a record for salary among players yet to reach free agency. Kris Bryant‘s situation with the Chicago Cubs is tenuous as well, due partly to the effects of the salary arbitration process. While the White Sox won’t be the focus across the sport in this regard, the club has its own decisions to make by Friday’s exchange date.

As an organization, the White Sox generally like to settle on a number rather than exchanging figures to be glossed over by an arbitrator. The franchise went many years without an arbitration fight, prior to Avisaíl García and Yolmer Sánchez heading down the process in recent years.

This year, six players are eligible to receive salary arbitration from the club.

Catcher James McCann agreed to a $5.4 million contract with the club early in December, and he’s signed on for his final season before he reaches unrestricted free agency. More of these deals should become official in the coming days. Pitchers Alex Colomé, Evan Marshall and Carlos Rodón along with outfielders Leury García and Nomar Mazara are the arbitration-eligible players on the White Sox. Fighting their own players is atypical to the modus operandi employed by the organization, so it’s expected that the five players will settle before the deadline.

The fine folks at MLB Trade Rumors do a commendable job of predicting arbitration raises annually and they see Colomé and Marshall getting somewhere in the neighborhood of $10.3 million and $1.3 million, respectively.

Rodón is in a tricky situation while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery as well, earning $4.2 million last year for just 34 ⅔ innings. Rodón is projected to receive $4.5 million for the 2020 season, in his third year of salary arbitration as a Super Two player.

García, a 28-year-old superutility player, earned $1.55 million last season; because he plays multiple positions for the White Sox, he’s slated to turn his 1.3 fWAR season into a projected $4 million commitment.

Outfielder Mazara is expected to receive a salary bump as well. The 24-year-old has been a bit of an enigma early on in his career. Regarded as one of the best prospects in the game on his way to the Rangers from the minor leagues, Nomar hasn’t lived up to his high billing. The lefty slugger earned $3.3 million in 2019; while struggling mightily vs left-handed pitching throughout his career, Mazara posted an .844 OPS with a 110 wRC+ vs RHP in 2019. He’s expected to receive $5.7 million for 2020.


The 2020 payroll, in review

Jerry Reinsdorf has opened his wallet this offseason, upping overall payroll from some uncommon recent lows. In 2019, the White Sox were 26th in baseball with a total payroll of $91,371,201. The organization currently has leaped to 16th in  payroll and is expected to spend between $125-$130 million in player salary for this upcoming season.

It can be astutely argued that they haven’t gone far enough, but the increase is a marked improvement that has quelled some recent criticism of the front office. The first addition to the 2020 club was catcher Yasmani Grandal back in November. The 31-year-old signed a four-year contract worth $73 million, so the switch-hitting backstop will earn $18.25 million next season.

The front office followed up the contract with a new deal for first baseman José Abreu. Abreu signed a three-year, $50 million contract extension with the team and he’ll earn $12.6 million against the payroll in 2020.

The next two signings slotted right into the starting rotation. First, Gio González signed a one-year contract that will pay him $4.5 million. And the biggest addition on the pitching front came days later, when the White Sox inked veteran southpaw Dallas Keuchel. The 32-year-old will earn $55.5 million over the course of his three-year commitment with the White Sox, and $18 million in 2020.

With the agreements and the trade for Mazara at December’s winter meetings, the front office effectively completed their shopping list. The decision-makers landed two starting pitchers, a right fielder and found some offensive pop from the left side. While the designated shopping list was all checked off, the organization remained motivated to add talent to the 2020 club. Edwin Encarnación is expected to make $11 million next season as the team’s primary designated hitter. Better production in that spot was another priority of general manager Rick Hahn.

And most recently, even the bullpen got a tuneup:

The 33-year-old reliever is the latest addition in Chicago. He’ll earn $5.25 million in 2020 and with an option year, could also be around for multiple seasons.

While five free agents have been added to the team, one of the bigger moves of the offseason was struck with a player already in the organization. Luis Robert will be the opening day center fielder after signing an extension that will keep him in Chicago for the next eight years.

Before their offseason signing frenzy, the White Sox had committed just $14.8 million to three players: Shortstop Tim Anderson, outfielder Eloy Jiménez and reliever Kelvin Herrera were the only members of the team not under arbitration or pre-arb status. Much has been done since that time, giving the roster a radically different look by Opening Day. While the heavy lifting has likely been consummated, another reliever, right-handed hitting outfielder or utility infielder could still be added to the mix, in addition to a bevy of non-roster invitees.

The current White Sox payroll according to Spotrac.com is $119.2 million. Depending on what else the organization decides to add before spring training, the official 2020 payroll should be in the $130 million range. The White Sox are projected to be 16th in baseball, and there’s no reason they can’t ascend into the 11-15 range on an annual basis, as the Washington Nationals are currently 10th in baseball with a total hovering around $152 million.

The White Sox don’t seem likely to threaten the $208 million competitive balance tax threshold anytime soon, and it’s not necessary for them to do so. The payroll should increase continually, right along with the expectations of the team. And nobody will care what the payroll is as long as the team wins division titles and finds a way to keep their own over this next decade.

 

The money continues to be spent: Steve Cishek signs with the White Sox

Funky fresh delivery: Cishek’s unorthodox pitching motion will help provide a contrast to the straight overhand fire spewed by much of the White Sox bullpen. (@MarinersPR)


The recent run on relievers signing around MLB was starting to look like the few remaining options in a heated game of musical chairs, but Rick Hahn was able to grab one with time to spare, and it’s a pretty decent option to boot, as former Cub Steve Cishek has signed a one year, $6 million contract to pitch for the White Sox in 2020.  This contract has an option for 2021 for another $6 million, with the conditions surrounding that option still to be announced.

Considering that relievers like Will Harris and Daniel Hudson both signed for significantly higher amounts and yearly commitments, Cishek looks to be a perfect middle ground solution that will not hamper the Sox budget to potentially improve and add talent midseason.

Entering his 11th season, Cishek has lived the nomadic life of a hired reliever for whichever employer is willing to take on his services. A 6´6´´, 215-pound right-handed sidewinder, Cishek pitched the previous two seasons for the Chicago Cubs, providing a consistent option out of their bullpen. In 2019, his numbers dipped slightly (though not outright terribly) to a 2.95 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP.  He does have peripherals that are very pleasing to the analytical eye, with an average exit velocity of 84.5 mph and a hard-hit rate of 25.9% per Baseball Savant.  And the wOBA on Cishek’s fastball was a miniscule .138, so even when he throws it straight, his funky delivery clearly has a significant effect on the batter’s ability to square it up.

I would expect to see Cishek serve as one of the veteran bridges to Alex Colomé, but if the man with the tilted hat falters, Cishek has closing in his background, notching seven saves last season and 132 in his career.

Let’s welcome Steve to the South Side, and breathe a little easier that the bullpen heading into 2020 is just a bit more secure!

La Pantera has arrived

Cat power: We’ll all get to witness how dangerous Luis Robert will be, as early as the end of March. (Kim Contreras/South Side Hit Pen)


What is about panthers? They are, for all intents and purposes, just leopards and jaguars with a melanism. Still we find them magnetizing and assign some mystical properties to them.

It’s hard to not get caught up in the mysticism surrounding surround Luis Robert. Perhaps we feel the need to halt ourselves when considering his rocket to the top combined with his injuries and age. Could this money be spent elsewhere?

Luis Robert has already lived more life than many of us here, and is mystical in that regard alone:

  • Age 14: Starred for Cuba’s 16-and-under team
  • Age 15: Began his professional baseball career in Cuba (batting average: .325)
  • Age 16: Hit four home runs in the COPABE 18U Pan American Championship (batting average: .383)
  • Age 19: Defected from Cuba and was declared a free agent five months later (batting average: .393)
  • Age 20: Signed with the Chicago White Sox
  • Age 21: Worked his way up through– i.e. dominated– the Winston-Salem Dash and Birmingham Barons.
  • Age 22: Joined the Charlotte Knights; became a member of the 30/30 club; hit 30 home runs and stole 36 bases throughout the season.

As I write them, I sit on my couch in my underwear, tortilla chips strewn down my shirt, and read about the news of Robert’s six-year, $50 million deal with the White Sox, before I turn to the mirror and say “Damn, what are any of us doing, really?”

We have watched a transformation from Luis Robert to LuBob. However, La Pantera, at age 22, has ARRIVED.

By finally calling up La Pantera and other big money moves, the White Sox have embraced a transformation and sense of urgency — some might feel it is with wreckless abandon while others are riding this roller coaster. The management seems to feel a bit of both: In a story from USA Today regarding the current Winter Meetings, Rick Hahn mentioned “there’s more than one conversation every week when [Jerry Reinsdorf] reminds us how old he is and wondering how much longer he has to wait to get to the promised land. He’s ready to get to the winning stage.” Us too, Jerry.

It’s hard not to consider what is going on in Jerry’s head. Hahn confirmed that Jerry is feeling restless, but at what cost?

Duke_Snider_1953.jpg

Perhaps Jerry, who grew up a Brooklyn Dodger fan, sees a young Duke Snider when imagining Robert roaming center field. Now is the time to recapture childhood dreams.

 

theshining_lloyd.jpg

Perhaps Jerry had a long conversation with a bartender named Lloyd at the Overlook Hotel and is selling his soul for a drippy sip from the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Or maybe, just maybe, he is just padding the team for an inevitable sell.

What’s your guess?

Regardless, Reinsdorf has a plan, and sees something in Luis Robert that will tie up the loose ends of any one of these possibilities.

And what is it about panthers? Famed researcher W.H. Hudson found that indigenous peoples believed panthers were an entirely separate species that has mystical properties.

The White Sox management and fans seem to take confidence in numbers, but there is still a fine layer of mysticism surrounding La Pantera. Let’s see the magic come alive on Opening Day, at bat and in center field.

South Side Hit Pen Podcast No. 5: The Puig streak continues

 

Guess who? Puig to the Sox; Rick, make it so.


In the first half of the podcast, Brett Ballantini and Scott Reichard assess the current state of the Sox, with five free agents on board and a few weaknesses left to patch.

Does right field still need attention?

How about the bullpen?

Bonus: Scott comes up with yet another freebie slogan for Brooks Boyer.

In the second half, Brett rolls the credits with big thank-yous to the site and staff. Here’s to a fantabulous 2020 season!

South Side Hit Pen Podcast: Episode 3

I’m lonely: I want someone to trade with me. (@WhiteSox)


The South Side Hit Pen podcast’s third episode hits the airwaves with hosts Brett Ballantini and Scott Reichard, discussing the aftermath of Winter Meetings nothingness, Nomar Mazara, disappearing free agent pitching prospects, trusting in Rick Hahn, and a new 2020 season slogan for Brooks Boyer. 

Mazara joins the White Sox for Walker, Texas Ranger

Bat dance: In a curious move, the White Sox dealt promising minor-league talent for a stalled major leaguer. (@NomarMzra26)


Late Tuesday night came word of the first White Sox trade of the Winter Meetings: Texas Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazara to Chicago for High-A outfielder Steele Walker.

The move sends the fastest-rising outfield prospect in the system to Texas for a relatively expensive option to plug into right field (Mazara arguably could have found himself nontendered in the current climate).

But while it’s easy to lament the loss of Walker, the truth is the former Oklahoma Sooner is just a year younger than Mazara, already a veteran of four full big league seasons.

What’s more curious is that Mazara was acquired with several free agent, nontendered and trade prospects still on the board. A few days after being underwhelmed to learn the RF target for the White Sox was Marcell Ozuna, now White Sox fans are digesting an even more limited player in Mazara as their possible full-time RF in 2020.

If Mazara has his customary season in his White Sox debut, expect around 20 homers and a high-700s OPS, with no speed or defense to speak of. The left-handed Mazara has had considerably greater success against righthanders in his career, so in a platoon situation he could see his contact rate improve and OPS push higher than .800.

“At just 24 years old, Nomar provides us with a left-handed hitting right fielder who fits into our current team’s development arc and who still has untapped potential, said Rick Hahn in a team statement. “Nomar adds yet another young, exciting bat with upside to our lineup.”

Perhaps Hahn sees something many others do not. After all, Mazara had the longest home run (505 feet) in the majors last year, on June 21 vs. the White Sox, and hit two of the six longest homers in baseball in 2019.

Mazara won’t come cheap, as MLBTR estimates his arbitration settlement at $5.7 million in arbitration for 2020.

The White Sox lose Walker, their second round draft choice in 2018. The lefty is a good two years away from the big leagues, likely getting his feet wet for Texas in High-A after putting up just a .771 OPS at High-A Winston-Salem in the second half of 2019. Walker’s solid overall season, as many other top OF prospects slumped, put him in position to become the club’s top outfielder prospect with Luis Robert’s matriculation to the majors.

The trade pushes Chicago’s 40-man roster to 38.